Snookum Russell: Basin Street Ain‘t Basin Street No More
Basin Street was in the heart of Storyville, the legendary “vice district” in New Orleans. Here, before 1917, prostitution and gambling flourished. There were also plentiful gigs for musicians. House of the Rising Sun probably took place here, and of course, Basin St Blues. It’s only natural that there would be lots of songs about places where musicians found work. In 1917, as America entered World War I and patriotism ran high, Basin St was “cleaned up” in a fit of national morality.
I remember visiting another famous “vice district” when I was a child: Times Square and 42nd St in New York City. It was sleazy, dirty, and dangerous, but it was certainly real. Nowadays, that area is a huge animated billboard for Disney and their corporate pals. It looks like something out of Blade Runner. It’s completely artificial, and ought to cause cancer. So something has been gained, but something has also been lost. And that’s how I relate to this song.